Also known as water dogs and mudpuppies, salamanders can make for a very interesting animal. Their skin displays some amazing patters, and they make excellent pets for enthusiasts, and children. They are also cheap to care for making them an ideal pet for the economically minded.
Salamanders can be found in most damp, swampy areas in the leaf litter or near the waters edge. They have also been know to fall into the basement window ditches of houses. You can find them under rotting logs, large rocks, in caves. Pretty much anywhere there is shade and moisture. They love to come out at night to eat night crawlers, so this is an ideal time to find them. Just get yourself a flashlight and a net, and go out looking near water sources. They are also sold in pet stores in their adult forms.
A ten gallon aquarium can easily house two salamanders, or a large plastic critter carrier makes a good, cheap home for a single pet. Whatever you choose, be sure to clean it out before hand. Salamanders are amphibians, so they absorb water and chemicals through their skin which can make them sick. Once that’s done, you have to choose a substrate. There are many to choose from: sand, fish tank marble rocks, gravel, mud, leaves, but my favorite is moss. most of these items hold moisture well, which is important because salamanders love water. Once you have that taken care of, you can either put about an inch of water in the tank, or you can get a large, shallow water dish. Either choice is fine. Your pet will slip into the dish whenever it feels dried out. If you get a salamander that is still in its larval form (has feathery gills on the sides of its head) use the same setup as you would a fish tank. You wont need to keep the water ass deep, and you should provide a large rock or piece of wood above the water level for them to climb out on when they mature. When this happens, drain the water until it is about twice as deep as your pet is tall. Eventually the gills and fin-like tail will disappear, and he will be ready for the adult setup. There are few other considerations for a salamander tank. They don’t need any kind of heating. Their tank should be cleaned out about once a week. They don’t like bright lights or heat lamps. But you should make sure they have a lid; some species are good climbers.
Salamanders can eat surprisingly big meals. The aquatic larvae will eat fish, and even smaller salamanders if they are hungry enough. Their ideal food is night crawlers, shrimp/krill, small goldfish, and reptile sticks (though it can be tricky to teach them to eat these.) the best time to feed your pet is late afternoon when it starts to get dark, but after your pet gets used to its home, it will start to come out earlier. Salamanders snap up anything that moves (and even a few things that don’t) so you won’t have to worry about them not eating. Just don’t overfeed them. A fat salaamed is an unhealthy one.
Although salamanders will eat anything small enough to fit in their mouths, you can put in companion animals of comparable size such as toads and other salamanders. As long as you keep your pets well fed, they should get along just fine, but be careful when throwing a night crawler in with two salamanders; they might fight over it. In the wild salamanders can sometimes be found in large herds of up to a hundred or more.
Sexing a mature salamander is easy in early spring during their mating season. The male is larger and at this time his testis swell up. You will notice two bulges at the base of the tail. The females “plump up” at this time, putting on body fat to help develop of eggs. breeding , though something I highly encourage due to decreasing salamander populations, can be a bit tricky. The easiest way to do it is to move your tank out to a shed or garage when winter starts. This will make them hibernate which is important. When the snow starts to melt, bring your pets back inside. Once they wake up, create some rain with a sprayer or hose once a day. All you need do now is provide a suitable place for them to lay eggs, which sadly I can’t tell you how to do because it varies from species to species. Some lay their eggs in water, others in damp leaves. If you are serious about breeding them, learn what species you have, and do more detailed research. If successful, raise the young until they are mature and then release them where you found the parents (provided they are a native species) this is a good way to help replenish the losses of these creatures caused by habitat destruction. They are a necessary part of the ecosystem and must be maintained.
For the most part I recommend against handling salamanders. They are a bit nippy, and some exotic species secrete toxins through their skin which can be harmful. If you do touch your pet for any reason, as with all reptiles and amphibians, WASH YOUR HANDS.
Mud puppies are actually a different species than salamanders that can stay in their larval state for years until conditions change enough for them to come onto land; they can even mate in this form. The largest salamanders in the world live in Asia and is several feet long, and very aggressive. Salamanders are becoming harder to find due to deforestation, so unless you know how to breed the species in your area, please get one from a store.